February 23, 2021


On with the Show: Performing Arts in the Age of COVID 19

Last spring at the start of the pandemic, instead of canceling Shakespeare’s dark comedy, Measure for Measure, The Theatre School at DePaul University chose to go on with the show! They transitioned from a live in-studio play to a radio show. 2020 MFA graduate Maricruz Menchero joins the podcast to talk about her experience playing Escalus in the play-turned-radio-drama, unexpected benefits of the radio show and how her coursework introduced her to new skillsets for life after graduation.



LINDA BLAKLEY: Welcome to DePaul Download. I'm your host, Linda Blakley, vice president of University Marketing and Communications.

Last spring, when The Theater School at DePaul University cast for Shakespeare's dark comedy, Measure for Measure, they anticipated the usual challenges that come with putting on a theatrical performance. However, facing a global pandemic wasn't one of them. Instead of simply canceling the show, DePaul found a creative way to bring the story to the community. They transformed the live on‑stage event to a radio drama that debuted in May 2020. This gave DePaul's theater students the chance to sharpen their acting craft but also introduced them to voiceover work, an industry that is booming in light of the pandemic. 

Here with me today to talk about her time as Escalus in the play turned radio drama, Measure for Measure and a 2020 MFA graduate is Maricruz Menchero. 

Maricruz, welcome to the DePaul Download.

MARICRUZ MENCHERO: Thank you. I'm really excited to be here today.

LINDA BLAKLEY: First off, congratulations on your performance in Measure for Measure and for completing your master's degree.  Can you tell us more about Measure for Measure's transition from a live performance to a radio show?  What was that experience like?

MARICRUZ MENCHERO: Well, we actually found out the week before spring break that all our live performances were going to be canceled.  So we kind of took that week of spring break as -- kind of as a reset button, and so a lot of us started mourning the loss of the show, thinking we're no longer going to be able to move forward with it but then afterwards we actually met together as a cast and crew, and we started brainstorming, thinking, you know, we have a lot of options before us. 

Do we kind of want to abandon the project? Do we want to make it some sort of a virtual performance, you know, live via Zoom? Or do we want to make it a radio show? And we actually tried out the different options. We ‑‑ you know, we were thinking, okay, if we make it a live virtual show, how are we going to use our screens? How are we going to use different angles? And how can we make this interesting? 

And then we actually thought, you know what, let's turn off our videos and let's just read. And so the moment we did that, we all kind of started leaning in and listening to the story in a different way that we hadn't done before and so it became really evident after we did that. And we said, you know what, let's do a radio show. It's in keeping with, you know, FDR's fireside chats. It's this old tradition that we felt was very appropriate to the given times. And, yeah, we ‑‑ it almost ‑‑ it was almost a unanimous decision, and we were really excited about the possibility of continuing forth with the project and just making it into something different.

LINDA BLAKLEY: So this gave you a front‑row seat to learning about the technical aspects of voiceover work. How did you prepare for the performance and did it require mastering technology that was new to you?

MARICRUZ MENCHERO: For the actual performance, I would say I just used my computer and you know, the Zoom, which a lot of students are using now days. The microphone and all my other equipment would actually come after the fact when I took a voiceover class at school. 

So for the performance, it was so soon after spring break and we were kind of all getting used to the new circumstances, so we kind of all did the best we could with what we had, but it ended up being really great, and everyone, you know, could be heard really, really great.  Just, you know, we had the occasional internet dropping and, you know, little technical aspects. But, I mean even in a live show, things are ‑‑ things are bound to go awry, so it was a, you know, different type of normal for us and still fun, still a great experience.

So out of curiosity, do you think your voice for Escalus would have been different if you were performing on stage or would it have been the same?

MARICRUZ MENCHERO: Well, I would say when we performed, you know, in the radio show one of the things our director kept telling us was, you know, this is a more intimate setting.  You're not in ‑‑ you know, you're not on a stage.  You know, this isn't a huge venue.  There's something very intimate about this setting. 

And so that's one of the things we played with was - What if you got really close to your mic? What if you got really far away?  If you get far away, what if, you know, that's the moment where maybe you're shouting to a character if you get really angry, but if you lean into the mic, maybe that's a moment where you can create this real intimacy. So it almost felt like we were exploring a little bit of on‑camera work as well as voiceover work because we were so close to the audience.

LINDA BLAKLEY: Okay. Not to put you on the spot but can you show us a few of the mic techniques?


So when we're doing a radio show, we like to be really close to the mic, like maybe if you're telling your scene partner a secret, you get really close and intimate. It sounds almost a little mischievous. 

But then when you come back here and you start using your voice a little bit more and you start projecting because when you're in the theater, you try to be heard, and you try to hit those consonants, hit those Ts, hit those Ks. 

So it's a very different feeling. And even within the radio show, you get both of those as well, depending, you know, are you trying to lean into your partner and tell them something or are you leaning back and kind of shouting to everybody in the square. So I would say those are the main differences but even within the radio show, you can get some variety of both.

LINDA BLAKLEY: So share, if you could, what you learned from performing in a radio drama that you wouldn't have learned from having done this as an onstage performance?  For instance, what were some of the benefits?

MARICRUZ MENCHERO: I think one of the benefits was, you know, in our old space we were going to perform this in a studio space, and that only holds about I think 35 chairs due to fire code.  And so our audience was going to be a lot smaller. So once we transitioned to this new medium, it kind of opened the doors for there to be a whole different audience. Like my grandpa from California, who's 80 years old, was able to tune in and my grandma, who's 89 years old, well, now 90 years old, she was able to tune in as well from Mexico City. 

So it kind of gave us the possibility to invite, like, family members who hadn't been able to see us perform in a long time on an international level. So that was really cool. 

And in terms of new things that I learned, I would say I think I really learned about how to use my voice in a different way.  Like I was, you know, talking to you before, it's that intimacy factor. So, you know, it's like when you're reading or when you're listening to an Audible book, you know, you don't want someone to be screaming at you or, you know, you kind of want to feel like you're right there, like you're a fly on the wall, like you're, you know, like you're in the story. 

And so I would say just being able to work through different channels was, was, you know, a great experience. And being able to really lean in and kind of picture the story. You know, even though you didn't have props you didn't have your fellow actors before you, just finding different ways of listening and kind of leaning in.

LINDA BLAKLEY: So you also, then, had some of your biggest fans listening in.

MARICRUZ MENCHERO: Absolutely, yeah. Yeah, that was really special.

LINDA BLAKLEY: So how has the radio show, your voiceover class, and your DePaul education informed some of your other work?


Well, I would say after the fact, I started doing several voiceover auditions and I actually have my own little studio.  I'm recording right now in my closet.  I spend a lot of time here.

And so, yeah, I mean, I learned about what type of equipment is necessary, and, you know, I have my own setup, which now I use on a professional level. And, yeah, like I said, it's just a different type of communication. It's a different type of ‑‑ it's a different medium. And so just really being able to explore a different medium has just opened up so many more doors for me after the fact and just feeling more comfortable and knowing that I've had those types of experiences.  

And, you know, now since theater kind of is, you know, at a pause, there's so many performances that are becoming radio shows. You know, the big theaters in Chicago, like Steppenwolf, one of their shows is actually an hour radio show. So knowing that in this professional world right now there's a lot of opportunity, and, you know, having had those experiences, I feel more confident, you know, walking into those.

LINDA BLAKLEY: So let's talk a little bit more about that. We are nearing the pandemic's one-year mark. What do you think the future of theater will look like?  Are there new skillsets that students should be focusing on so that they are better prepared for the industry following graduation?

MARICRUZ MENCHERO: You know, I, that's a really hard question to answer, because I, I mean, I have high hopes that theater is going to come back and I think a lot of artists do as well. You know, it's just a different experience when you have the audience sitting right there with you and, I mean, it's just, you know, something that you can't really replace. 

And so I can't really predict the future of theater. I have high hopes that it will come back but I will say at this present time I think that if students focus more on voiceover work, you know, brush up your on‑camera skills, I think that's really important, because those are the things that are still filming, that are still taking place right now. 

And so, you know, still invest in your theater training, because, like I said, I really don't think that's ever going to go away and that's a different type of skillset. But also kind of focus on other areas that are maybe more popular right now given the times.

LINDA BLAKLEY: Okay. So one final question. What is one piece of advice you would give DePaul's theater students?

MARICRUZ MENCHERO: I would say enjoy the time that you currently have at school. I know this is not the ideal way to learn and I know you might be missing your friends and whatnot. I know I certainly am. But at the same time having these opportunities, almost mandatory opportunities, to come together as a class, don't take that for granted because right now that's what our social interaction looks for. So even if it's in a formal setting, like, really, really try to enjoy it as much as possible. 

And I would also say be extremely kind and compassionate towards yourself because there's so many moving factors at this moment and so many things that are unpredictable and that are out of our control. So find ways to still find joy and give yourself time to rest and digest, and, yeah, hold those you love close by so you can still be, you know, supported during these times. I think that's very important.

LINDA BLAKLEY: Thank you, Maricruz, for joining me today. I appreciate you taking time to speak with me about your DePaul experiences and I wish you the best in your future endeavors.

MARICRUZ MENCHERO: Thank you, Linda.

LINDA BLAKLEY: I'm Linda Blakley. Thank you for listening to another episode of DePaul Download, presented by DePaul's Division of University Marketing and Communications.